A First Look at Mercury’s Surface

8:36:43 PM, Tuesday, March 29, 2011

-- "It is the first photo from the first spacecraft to orbit the first rock from the Sun.

On Tuesday morning, NASA’s Mercury Messenger took this photograph of the surface of Mercury. The bright pockmark in the upper half of the image is a 50-mile-wide crater called Debussy. (Craters on Mercury are named after artists, musicians and writers.)

The spacecraft then took 363 more photographs before sending the images to Earth; more will be released to the public on Wednesday, when NASA will hold a news conference about what it sees on Mercury.

The Messenger began its trip through the inner solar system six and a half years ago, and it entered orbit around Mercury on March 18. Since then, engineers have been checking out the spacecraft before turning on the instruments, including the camera. During the mission, expected to last at least a year, the Messenger is to take 75,000 more photographs, allowing scientists to map out the planet’s entire surface and study its geology and atmosphere in detail."

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The 2011 Miss Reef Calendar - Pacific Side of Panama

5:10:20 PM, Tuesday, March 29, 2011

-- A fact not that well known: Panama, especially the Panama Canal Zone area, has become a popular retirement spot for those from the U.S. who seek warmer climate, inexpensive living and a much more leisurly way of life, but it also has other attractions, for which watch the video...

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The Future of Manufacturing Is Local

2:55:30 PM, Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"Think manufacturing, and most likely your brain defaults to abandoned factories, outsourcing and economically devastated regions like the Rust Belt. So strong is our tendency to focus on American manufacturing as something that’s been lost that a chorus has risen up to decry the prevalence of “ruin porn” — those aestheticized versions of the decidedly un-pretty, with a particular focus on the once-triumphant automotive center of the universe, Detroit.

But there are many parts of this country where manufacturing is very much alive, albeit in a different form. The monolithic industry model — steel, oil, lumber, cars — has evolved into something more nimble and diversified. As this country continues to figure out how to crawl out of its economic despair, we could benefit from focusing on the shift.

President Obama, looking for ideas for job creation, came to San Francisco last month to pick the brains of tech-industry giants like Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison and Mark Zuckerberg. He would have done well to include Kate Sofis as well — and not only to right the gender imbalance at the dinner table. Sofis, executive director of SFMade, is helping breathe new life into a forgotten potential economic driver: manufacturing.

“Manufacturing isn’t dead and doesn’t need to be preserved,” she says. “Let’s stop fixating on what’s lost. Let’s see what we have here, what’s doing well, and let’s help those folks do better.”

Industries like the record business, publishing and technology are constantly evolving in order to survive. Both SFMade and its New York cousin, Made in N.Y.C., are increasingly able to share success stories of how manufacturing has developed new models for doing business in the 21st century. The monolithic single-industry model has evolved as manufacturers see the benefits of being smaller and paying attention to how patterns of consumption, ownership and use are shifting..."

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Why Are Spectres and Warthogs Attacking Gaddafi’s Forces Now?

11:34:10 AM, Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"In case you had any doubts about where the war in Libya is going, the Pentagon has confirmed today that two new weapons are now part of the coalition forces: The A-10 Warthog and the AC-130 Spectre. What does this mean?Vice Admiral "Shortney" Gortney said that they "have been employed" according to the UN resolution but they are not being used "in direct support of the opposition."

The Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II aka Warthog is a twin-engine jet designed to provide close air support for ground forces. It eats tanks and any armored vehicles for breakfast, lunch and dinner thanks to its GAU-8 Avenger heavy automatic cannon. These beasts can take an entire Libyan armored column and blow it to smithereens in a few passes.

The Lockheed AC-130 Spectre is a gigantic flying gunship, that vomits hell down to the ground in the form of 25mm, 40mm and 105mm cannon projectiles, some of them of the depleted uranium kind. The main use of the AC-130 is close air support, force protection, and bombing raids.

But, according to the Pentagon, these aircraft are "not being used in direct support of the opposition" forces. Really? Did they just sent them there on target practice? No. The Pentagon may pretend that these ships are not providing close air support to the rebel forces but the fact is that, when you take one of Gaddafi's tank out of the way, you are directly supporting the opposition. Perhaps not in a coordinated way, but in a definitive way nonetheless.

And while the rebels aren't necessarily calling coalition planes in when they need support, I think it's safe to assume that recon units—drones and special operations units on the ground—are guiding these attacks to the places and battles where they are most needed."

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Digging for Riches in the World’s Deepest Gold Mine

11:07:34 AM, Tuesday, March 29, 2011

-- "The Mponeng gold mine in South Africa is the world’s deepest mine, extending more than 2 miles below the surface. Not surprisingly, conditions at its depths are hellish. The commute down takes more than an hour. The rock itself can reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit and occasionally explodes. But there’s also a pair of gold reefs down there, the lowest of which is 3 feet thick. It costs about $550 an ounce to extract the bling—not too bad when gold is selling for $1,300 an ounce. AngloGold Ashanti, which runs Mponeng, can keep well in the black by recovering just 0.35 ounce of gold from each ton of rock, and Mponeng pulls up 6,000 tons a day. AngloGold and its chief rival, GoldFields, dug the first ultradeep mines decades ago, but only recently has technology made the operations (sort of) safe. Here’s how they do it..."

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Safe Nuclear Does Exist, And China Is Leading The Way With Thorium

11:53:01 PM, Monday, March 28, 2011

"This passed unnoticed –except by a small of band of thorium enthusiasts – but it may mark the passage of strategic leadership in energy policy from an inert and status-quo West to a rising technological power willing to break the mould.

If China’s dash for thorium power succeeds, it will vastly alter the global energy landscape and may avert a calamitous conflict over resources as Asia’s industrial revolutions clash head-on with the West’s entrenched consumption.

China’s Academy of Sciences said it had chosen a “thorium-based molten salt reactor system”. The liquid fuel idea was pioneered by US physicists at Oak Ridge National Lab in the 1960s, but the US has long since dropped the ball. Further evidence of Barack `Obama’s “Sputnik moment”, you could say.

Chinese scientists claim that hazardous waste will be a thousand times less than with uranium. The system is inherently less prone to disaster.

“The reactor has an amazing safety feature,” said Kirk Sorensen, a former NASA engineer at Teledyne Brown and a thorium expert.

“If it begins to overheat, a little plug melts and the salts drain into a pan. There is no need for computers, or the sort of electrical pumps that were crippled by the tsunami. The reactor saves itself,” he said..."

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Astronomy Picture of the Day: MWC 922, The Red Square Nebula

10:46:09 PM, Monday, March 28, 2011

-- "What could cause a nebula to appear square? No one is quite sure. The hot star system known as MWC 922, however, appears to be embedded in a nebula with just such a shape. The above image combines infrared exposures from the Hale Telescope on Mt. Palomar in California, and the Keck-2 Telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. A leading progenitor hypothesis for the square nebula is that the central star or stars somehow expelled cones of gas during a late developmental stage. For MWC 922, these cones happen to incorporate nearly right angles and be visible from the sides. Supporting evidence for the cone hypothesis includes radial spokes in the image that might run along the cone walls. Researchers speculate that the cones viewed from another angle would appear similar to the gigantic rings of supernova 1987A, possibly indicating that a star in MWC 922 might one day itself explode in a similar supernova."

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Boogie Boarding Down a Dam in Australia

1:40:29 PM, Monday, March 28, 2011
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The Black Keys - Howlin' For You (Official Video)

6:44:11 PM, Sunday, March 27, 2011

-- Also, if you haven't seen Limitless yet then you definitely should. Super fun movie.

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High-Temperature Superconductor Spills Secret: A New Phase of Matter?

3:46:27 PM, Sunday, March 27, 2011

"Scientists have found the strongest evidence yet that a puzzling gap in the electronic structures of some high-temperature superconductors could indicate a new phase of matter. Understanding this "pseudogap" has been a 20-year quest for researchers who are trying to control and improve these breakthrough materials, with the ultimate goal of finding superconductors that operate at room temperature.

"Our findings point to management and control of this other phase as the correct path toward optimizing these novel superconductors for energy applications, as well as searching for new superconductors," said Zhi-Xun Shen of the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Science (SIMES), a joint institute of the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University. Shen led the team of researchers that made the discovery; their findings appear in the March 25 issue of Science.

Superconductors are materials that conduct electricity with 100 percent efficiency, losing nothing to resistance. Currently used in medical imaging, highly efficient electrical generators and maglev trains, they have the potential to become a truly transformative technology; energy applications would be just one beneficiary. This promise is hampered by one thing, though: they work only at extremely low temperatures. Although research over the past 25 years has developed "high-temperature superconductors" that work at warmer temperatures, even the warmest of them -- the cuprates -- must be chilled half-way to absolute zero before they will superconduct.

The prospect of being able to dramatically increase that working temperature, thus making superconductors easier and cheaper to use, has kept interest in the cuprates at the boiling point. But to change something you have to understand it, and a puzzle called the pseudogap has stood in the way.

One hallmark of a superconductor is a so-called "energy gap" that appears when the material transitions into its superconducting phase. The gap in electron energies arises when electrons pair off at a lower energy to do the actual job of superconducting electric current..."

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The New York Times: Losing Our Way By Bob Herbert

3:33:29 PM, Sunday, March 27, 2011

"So here we are pouring shiploads of cash into yet another war, this time in Libya, while simultaneously demolishing school budgets, closing libraries, laying off teachers and police officers, and generally letting the bottom fall out of the quality of life here at home.

Welcome to America in the second decade of the 21st century. An army of long-term unemployed workers is spread across the land, the human fallout from the Great Recession and long years of misguided economic policies. Optimism is in short supply. The few jobs now being created too often pay a pittance, not nearly enough to pry open the doors to a middle-class standard of living.

Arthur Miller, echoing the poet Archibald MacLeish, liked to say that the essence of America was its promises. That was a long time ago. Limitless greed, unrestrained corporate power and a ferocious addiction to foreign oil have led us to an era of perpetual war and economic decline. Young people today are staring at a future in which they will be less well off than their elders, a reversal of fortune that should send a shudder through everyone.

The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.

Nearly 14 million Americans are jobless and the outlook for many of them is grim. Since there is just one job available for every five individuals looking for work, four of the five are out of luck. Instead of a land of opportunity, the U.S. is increasingly becoming a place of limited expectations. A college professor in Washington told me this week that graduates from his program were finding jobs, but they were not making very much money, certainly not enough to think about raising a family.

There is plenty of economic activity in the U.S., and plenty of wealth. But like greedy children, the folks at the top are seizing virtually all the marbles. Income and wealth inequality in the U.S. have reached stages that would make the third world blush. As the Economic Policy Institute has reported, the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007, the most recent extended period of economic expansion..."

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MIDWAY Film Trailer - The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

2:43:50 PM, Sunday, March 27, 2011

-- Chris Jordan's trailer to his upcoming film 'Midway', in which he documents the destruction that man-made materials are doing to natural wildlife. I've posted about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and also a similar floating landfill that was found in the Atlantic, - which is what fuels the decline of these islands and the wildlife they support.

These photos really show the devastating effects man-produced refuse, especially materials like plastic, have on wildlife, - Midway photos by Chris Jordan.

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China Plugging Holes in 'Great Firewall'

1:57:01 PM, Sunday, March 27, 2011

"China appears to be moving aggressively to plug holes in its "Great Firewall" censorship system, causing frustration for businesses and web users, foreign Internet companies and analysts said.

Google's email service Gmail has been heavily disrupted, as have several popular online services providing encryption software that many businesses and individuals depend on for web security and to get around the firewall.

The problems have followed a call for subtle, weekly "strolling" protests in China inspired by political uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, and indicate the government is intent on nipping dissent in the bud, analysts said.

"They're testing new capabilities to see if there are technical means of dealing with the possibility of organised opposition," Russell Leigh Moses, a Beijing-based political analyst, told AFP.

China operates an ever-expanding system of Internet control and censorship dubbed the "Great Firewall of China", aimed at snuffing out information or comment that the government considers a threat to its authority.

Gmail users have complained of access difficulties in recent weeks that have forced some to switch to other services such as Hotmail and Yahoo!, and Google points the finger at the Chinese government..."

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AWOLNATION - Sail

1:47:16 PM, Sunday, March 27, 2011
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Audi A6 Commercial "Manipulation"

1:43:31 PM, Sunday, March 27, 2011
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